Placental abruption is a complication that occurs when the placenta separates from the uterine lining. Separation may be partial or complete and typically occurs in the third trimester, although it may occur any time after the 20th week of pregnancy. Placental abruption must be diagnosed quickly to avoid catastrophic injury to the mother and baby.
Placental abruption can cause serious injury to the mother or baby if it is not timely diagnosed. The placenta is responsible for delivering nutrients and oxygen-rich blood to the fetus, and placental abruption will prevent this from occurring.
Symptoms of this condition may include vaginal bleeding, high-frequency low amplitude contractions and increased uterine resting tone. If you experienced symptoms of this condition but these were dismissed by your doctor, or if you were diagnosed with placental abruption but were not properly treated, you may have grounds for a birth injury lawsuit against the at-fault doctor, nurse, or other healthcare professional or facility.
Maryland placental abruption Attorney Michael Bereston can talk to you about what happened and can help you understand your legal rights and options – call (410) 220-6581 for a free consultation. We help clients across the country.
Diagnostic Tools to Identify Placental Abruption
Although placental abruption can be unexpected, it does not mean that it is unidentifiable or unpredictable. Using the appropriate diagnostic tools, a medical professional can spot the warning signs of placental abruption early and address them.
Early detection and intervention can significantly decrease the chances of the mother and child suffering severe injuries or complications caused by the placental abruption.
Three diagnostic tools that a doctor can use to detect placental abruption are:
- Observation and Physical examination: Observation for signs of placental abruption is a key factor in the early detection and intervention in placental abruption. A firm and distending abdomen with bright red vaginal bleeding are classic signs of abruption and should be addressed quickly in order to avoid injury to the baby.
- Fetal stress: A drop in the fetal heart rate and/or changes in the fetal heart rate along with the physical signs mentioned above, may further indicate an abruption is occurring.
- Ultrasound: An ultrasound may or may not show an abruption is occurring. While it is a tool that can provide further information on the status of the baby, it is not considered a first line test when physical findings such as a rigid abdomen with bleeding are present.
Failing to take any steps to identify and timely intervene when placental abruption is occurring can constitute medical malpractice. The underlying question is whether or not it was recognized and timely intervention occurred in order to prevent catastrophic injury to the baby.
Symptoms, Treatment & Risk Factors of Placental Abruption
The exact cause of placental abruption is unknown, but there are certain factors that may increase one’s risk of developing this condition:
- Smoking cigarettes or using cocaine during pregnancy
- Pregnancy over the age of 35
- Preeclampsia/high blood pressure
- Twin/triplet pregnancies
- Abdominal trauma
- Uterine abnormalities
The following are potential signs and symptoms of placental abruption:
- Vaginal bleeding
- High-frequency low amplitude contractions
- Increased uterine resting tone
- Abdominal pain and tenderness
- Fetal heart rate abnormalities
Once the placenta detaches from the uterine lining, there is no way to reattach it. However, in mild cases of placental abruption, bed rest may be recommended and the baby may be born with little to no complications. In more severe cases, early delivery may be required.
Is Placental Abruption Dangerous?
Placental abruption is one of the most dangerous forms of birth injury. Around half of all babies born after a placental abruption will experience some sort of permanent birth injury, usually involving the brain. More than 10% of unborn babies who suffer a placental abruption will pass away. The chances of a fatality or a permanent injury increase when medical treatment is delayed or incorrect.
How Long Can an Unborn Child Survive After a Placental Abruption?
Oxygen deprivation can occur almost-immediately after a placental abruption, which means the unborn child will be in immediate danger of asphyxiation and brain damage. Severe placental abruption can be fatal within a few minutes. Medical providers should assume the worst and act as quickly as possible to address the medical crisis.
What Should Doctors Do When They Suspect Placental Abruption?
The most common response to placental abruption is an emergency C-section. Diligence can help them catch the placental abruption as it happens, allowing them to complete an emergency C-section as quickly as possible.